Opinion: New Facebook Dating service goes live - A privacy disaster waiting to happen
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Opinion: New Facebook Dating service goes live - A privacy disaster waiting to happen

Opinion: New Facebook Dating service goes live - A privacy disaster waiting to happen

Facebook finally makes it personal, releasing its long-gestating Dating feature.

  • The feature was first announced almost a year ago
  • The service will go live in the US first, but the timing couldn't be worse
  • Just yesterday, a report surfaced revealing that the phone numbers of 419+ million Facebook users had been exposed online

As if Facebook wasn't already too intertwined with our daily lives, it has now finally launched its first foray into the dating app scene, in the US.  

Originally revealed a year ago, the succinctly named "Facebook Dating" feature will integrate both Facebook and Instagram accounts together. It allows users to create a separate dating profile that branches out from their regular profiles, taking into account the hodge podge of information Facebook already has on you, from events attended, to pages liked, and more to generate dating profile hits based on your activity and preferences. If you sound alarmed, perhaps you should be. 

"We built Dating to be safe, inclusive and opt-in," Nathan Sharp, Product Manager of Dating, stated in a blog post. "Safety, security and privacy are at the forefront of this product."

Haven't we heard this before numerous times? Just yesterday, we reported on the leak of 419 million Facebook users' mobile phones. which were found in an unprotected database online. Mere weeks ago, Facebook was slammed with a $5 billion fine for its privacy mishaps. But now, Facebook wants us to believe its Dating feature, perhaps its most compromising and sensitive offering yet, will be secure? We find that to be quite the tough sell. 

Image: Facebook

“If you’re trying to avoid dating services that have red flags, you can’t really find one that has more red flags than Facebook,” Jason Kelley, a digital strategist at online privacy nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, as cited by The Guardian. “They have a terrible track record of keeping user data safe.”

For the most part, most of the data has been harvesting from its users over the years has served as bankable advertiser fodder, and at the moment, it's not clear ifthat would be changing when it comes to data collected from the Dating feature. As it currently stands, Dating is free, and you know what they say about 'free' products: If it's free, realize that you're the product

"Facebook says users’ dating profiles will be separate from their Facebook activity and not used for ad targeting," The Guardian continued. "But Facebook’s track record casts doubt on such promises, said Mark Weinstein, a privacy advocate and founder of rival social network MeWe."

“After so many years of countless privacy infractions, apologies, fines and pledges to do better, does anyone really believe a promise Facebook makes in regard to data privacy?” he said. “Facebook will use Facebook Dating as a new portal into users’ lives; collecting, targeting, and selling dating history" and other personal and intimate details. 

However, while US regulators can't do anything about the company's latest offering at the moment, they are looking at previous infractions with a judgmental squint. US media is now reporting that "state attorneys general are formally launching separate antitrust probes into Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit starting next week, according to people familiar with the matter, putting added pressure on tech giants already under federal scrutiny."

Could Facebook Dating be caught up in a separate probe next year if the company's history is anything to go by? Quite possibly. Facebook must be commended - or ridiculed - for its boldness in navigating this treacherous new territory at this most precarious of times. Then again, Facebook has become known for its tactlessness. 

Mark Anthony Karam

Mark Anthony Karam was an Editor at AMEinfo between 2018-2021. You can get in touch with him on LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/m-a-karam/

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